It’s been years since I baked. And by ‘baked’ I don’t mean something I’ve sprinkled out of a packet and thrown some milk into. Used to make actual, real cakes. Basic stuff, mind, nowt fancy. My Granda was a baker. Wasn’t the done thing to not know how to knock at least something up with flour, eggs, butter and sugar. Lost the strength to beat the batter, so stuck with all yon overpriced synthetic Betty Crocker nonsense. Should be fine now…a nice confection of chiropractic, yoga, painkillers and multiple supplements I can’t even name are helping my done-in body on bad days. Started buying books on baking, and looking up recipes online, but man…everything looked so far removed from the stuff I watched my Mum make. Even the simplest things seem so damn complicated. They’re fairy cakes, how can a fairy cake need ten bloody ingredients?
Eventually, after reading about 12 recipes for basic cupcakes – all of them different – I gave up, thought fuck it, and tried to remember what used to get chucked in the bowl when I was wee. It’s all about similar amounts, right? I can make a recipe out of this nonsense. Here goes nothing…
Right. Hiya Fred! We’ll start with flour. 125 grams is the only number that matches in 3 of the bastard recipes.
We’ll keep the basics on the same level then. 125 grams of butter it is. Unsalted, but he’s still happy.
None of your grainy, normal sugar business. Needs to be fine. 125 grams again? Aye.
Shit. Eggs! How many? These recipes are no help with their talk of “Large”…three medium free range fellas will have to do…I’ll just keep adding till it becomes reminiscent of the cake batter I ate raw as a child.
So there’s the ingredients sorted. Now the oven…quick google, and the general consensus seems to be 180 C/160 C Fan Assisted Oven/Gas Mark 4. PREHEAT THE OVEN, AND GO!
1. CREAM THE BUTTER AND SUGAR.
Yaaaasss!! I mean, NOOOOO!! The reason I stopped doing this shit. Shoulda bought a mixer, Shaky Ghost…shoulda bought a mixer…Christ…what the hell…this bastard is – to quote my beloved Stone Cold Steve Austin – ONE TOUGH SON OF A BITCH! Stay on target…STAY ON TARGET. Beat the hell out of that sugar and butter, S.G! On yersel! Screw you, ill things. You’ve stopped me from running, you’ve stopped me doing weights, you’ve messed with my spine, made me stop doing half of my job and now you’re dicking about with my yoga for shits n’ giggles every so often, but GOD DAMN IT – YOU WILL NOT COME BETWEEN ME AND CAKES.
2. ADD EGGS AND FLOUR TO CREAMED BUTTER AND SUGAR.
Now, I remember being told something about mixing them in gradually, in alternate amounts. And to always, ALWAYS sift the flour. It adds lightness and airy-ness to cakes, but also…I have vague memories of being told tales of flour bugs? o_O
I read some things about adding baking powder, but don’t ever remember using that in years gone by for fairy cakes? Ah, who cares. I’ll leave it out and see what happens. At worst, they’ll be food for the birds and the mice probably living in the walls.
3. DIVIDE BATTER EVENLY BETWEEN CAKE CASES.
Hmmm…he’s looking a bit on the thick side. Oh no. How many cases? I’m sure I remember something about “filling two thirds of the case”…how can I judge “heights” when these looked like – pardon the phrasing – heaps of shite. Okay, so there’s about 12. I’m sure this is fine. Oh God. Make sure the cases are in a bun tin, and not just sitting on a normal baking tray, as this would end in complete and utter “Pinterest Fail” giant-pancake-with-paper-filling disaster. You do not want this.
4. EAT REMAINING BATTER LEFT IN BOWL.
Well I did this for years in the eighties and all through some salmonella contamination scares, and I turned out okay. Actually, on second thoughts, maybe don’t take this advice. *OBLIGATORY DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME* etc. I will, because it tastes as good as I remember when me and my big brother fought over it.
5. PUT CAKES IN THE PREHEATED OVEN TO BAKE FOR 15 to 20 MINUTES.
6. BREATHE SIGH OF RELIEF AS THEY LEVEL OUT.
7. PANIC AS THEY START TO RISE AT A TERRIFYING RATE…
…then begin to look normal and less “behemoth-like”…
8. REMOVE FROM BUN TIN AND PLACE ON WIRE RACK TO COOL.
9. EAT ONE TO CHECK YOU WILL NOT KILL ANYONE.
Thankfully, they have turned out to be cooked right through, and are quite tasty.
10. TO DECORATION! AND BEYOND! ABOUT MAYBE 225g SIFTED ICING SUGAR?
6 TEASPOONS OF WATER TO START, ADD 1/2 a TEASPOON BIT BY BIT.
…until it forms a smooth and spreadable icing that will not dribble all over your cakes and ruin them entirely. Add some food colouring. How much is up to how bright you want them, and how hyperactive you want your kids to be for the rest of the week.
Go pure mental on this part. Make them look tasteful, artistic, minimalist or turn them into crazy bastard nightmares. There are no rules. I often get panicky upon seeing the amount of butter that goes into a good buttercream cake topping, so that shit is being reserved for special occasions. Glace all the way, baby…Oh aye! Check out these wee guys!
11. REJOICE IN YOUR CREATIONS AND THEIR LACK OF UNEXPLAINED “STABILIZERS”, PRESERVATIVES AND “GUMS”.